Supporting Parents and Carers of children with a Visual Impairment
...because we care

A Parent’s Guide to Statementing

This guide is for parents or carers of visually impaired children who need to state their case to an LEA (Local Education Authority) or similar that their child requires special attention in their educational needs.

This guide tells you who to contact, what to do and say and how we at LOOK might assist you further. There are also a few sample letters you might wish to use (at the bottom of this guide).

If you have any questions about this guide please contact the LOOK office.

Initials and terms used in this Guide:

  • SSEN: Statement of special educational needs
  • SEN: Special educational needs
  • LEA: Local Education Authority
  • LA: Local Authority
  • LSA: Learning Support Assistant
  • SENCO: Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator

Statement of Special Educational Needs

A Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) is a legal document specifying/listing what your child needs so that he/she can work properly alongside their classmates.

A SEN Statement does not stigmatise or label your child. If written correctly and updated and amended at regular intervals it is a “bible” for all those who are responsible for your child’s education. All the pupil’s strengths as well as problems are identified. Specific actions and ways of supporting are agreed and written into the statement so that you can ensure that your child will not suffer because of his/her sight loss and has the same chance as anyone else to be happy and confident in school and achieve his/her potential.

All the child can and can’t do should be specified/listed. The expectations for your child should be the same as for any other child in the classroom. Ways of supporting him/her, rather than making allowances for impairments and lowering expectations, is the key to success. The statement should find out what the child will need both from someone to help them personally, often called a learning support assistant (LSA) and from any equipment s/he might need….from magnifiers or sloping desk to IT hardware and software.

How your child is to be supported and by whom, how s/he can access the curriculum will be examined by professionals who understand your child’s sight loss (and any other impairments) – with your and your child’s views taken into account. This is a lengthy process, drawn up by LEA’s after consultation and advice from all parties (including you). The impact of not being able to see as well as the rest of the class is often not understood and underestimated, even by parents. Children who start school confidently and happily will soon lose heart and self-confidence if their vision problems are not recognised and supported properly. They may quickly downgrade themselves.

Local Education Authority Service

All LEAs have a specialist service for pupils who are visually impaired (VI). But the support given can vary considerably depending on where you live. And the criteria offered to determine whether your child needs a statement or not varies according to your location.

Writing A Statement

Assessing your child and producing a statement is a lengthy and sometimes stressful process. But once a well-written statement is in place it is a passport to proper support and a ‘bible’ for all those who come into contact with your child. Without a statement, support can be given and taken away, with more reference to the Local Education Authority’s budget than the child’s need.

So… read on to find out how to start , when to ask, how long will it take, etc. Contact LOOK with any other question not answered here.

How Long Will It Take?

TIME LIMITS from the start:

Week 1: Request for Statutory Assessment, this can take up to a further five weeks.

Week 6: LEA decides whether or not to carry out an assessment. If they decide not, parents can appeal. But a “yes” decision will lead to calls for professional reports and advice.

Week 16: The LEA decides whether to make a statement of special educational needs.

Week 18: Parents notified of decision and receive copy of proposed statement or “note in lieu”. You now have only 15 days to notify LEA if you wish them to amend draft statement. If you agree with the draft statement with no amendments…

Week 26: Final Statement
Parents have the right to question the content of the draft statement and ask for changes to be made. The LEA must agree to meeting you to discuss the content.

Keep a Copy: It is important to put every request in writing and keep copies. Record details of all phone conversations during the whole period.

Right To Appeal

If you still disagree after meeting LEA , you have the right to appeal to the SEN TRIBUNAL. The LEA has a duty to send you details of how to apply.

Sometimes the LEA will produce ”a note in lieu”. This is not a legal document. It should spell out what your child needs and how those needs will be met. You can appeal against a “note in lieu” in the same way as appealing against the Statement of SEN.

How LOOK Can Help

If your son or daughter has a significant visual problem – which can’t be corrected by glasses and affects his/her work in school – you have a right to ask the Local Education Authority for a statutory assessment of his/her special educational needs (SEN), leading to a Statement.

Most parents are disadvantaged by this system, including those:

  • who cannot afford solicitors or private psychologists to help them fight for their child’s rights
  • who lack the knowledge or confidence to challenge LEA professionals or officers
  • whose first language may not be English
  • who themselves may have learning difficulties
  • who may be coping with numerous problems
    (i.e. single parents, perhaps unemployed, perhaps with housing difficulties) for whom taking on their LEA is simply one additional struggle too many.

LOOK is here for every family, but especially for those who feel they cannot cope with the stress of disagreeing with those bodies who control their child’s educational chances.

Many parents are committed to helping and supporting each other in LOOK Groups and other affiliated groups so that every child gets proper support. Contact us to find out more.

Parent Partnership Schemes

Sometimes, Parent Partnership schemes and the LEA mediation services can be of enormous help and problems can be sorted out without the need to go through the time-consuming and stressful statementing process. Sadly, many Local Authorities fund the Parent Partnership organisations and stop short of support if you feel that an SEN Tribunal is the only course of action. However, LOOK has had great success in persuading LEAs that visually impaired children need more support than they often get.

Getting More Help

If you or your health professionals believe your child will have problems once they start play-school or school, remember that children can be statemented from the age of two.

Speak to your Health Visitor/ Social Worker/Under fives Support worker and ask them to support your letter but be sure to write it yourself.

Write to the LEA “head” – usually called the Chief Education Officer or Director of Education – and always keep a copy of the letter. Make a note of the six-week deadline and if you don’t get a reply phone LOOK for further help.

Remember, it is the legal duty of the LEA to reply within six weeks.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I ask for an assessment?

At any time after the age of two years if you believe:

  • that your child has serious sight problems or has sight problems and a learning difficulty or other disability which will hold them back at pre-school groups or school.
  • that the school will not be able to provide the help your child needs

Speak to your child’s class teacher and the head teacher about your worries before writing to the LEA and ask for their written support.

YOU MUST HEAR BACK FROM LEA WITHIN SIX WEEKS

Some LEAs will tell you that they do not Statement children until they are five years old or some do not Statement visually impaired children. This is not legally acceptable.

If you have any legitimate worries about the way your child is being supported in school or play school you have a right to ask for the child to be formally assessed.

All children have a right to equal access to a proper education alongside their schoolmates with adequate support. Do not be made to feel guilty about other people’s children. Lead the way and others will follow.

Should I speak to the school and the LEA first?

Yes, definitely. Speak to your child’s class teacher and the head teacher about your worries. When you write to the LEA asking for a re-assessment, explain why you think the current Statement is not good enough

Why not leave it to the school or social services?

Because if you write to the LEA with formal request the LEA has a duty to respond to you within six weeks of your letter being received. Ideally, you can get a supporting letter from the Headmaster or other supportive professional supporting your child.

What is a statutory assessment?

A Statutory assessment is a formal, multi-disciplinary assessment carried out by the LEA. This is necessary if you and/or the teachers believe the child’s needs are not being met under School Action or School Action Plus. (see attached paper explaining these terms).

What if the LEA refuses to assess?

The LEA has a legal duty to comply with your request or write to you explaining the reasons for their refusal. If they refuse the request then the parents have a right to appeal to the S.E.N Tribunal ( see paper 3). Contact LOOK for help.

Assessment Agreed:

The LEA will request reports and advice on the child that will help them decide whether to produce a Statement. (This must be done within time limit of 10 weeks)

The assessment should be carried out “with all reasonable speed”. The full assessment and issue of final statement should take NO LONGER than 26 weeks (six months) Exceptions to these time limits can be made.

The Assessment Process

Every area of the child’s life will be assessed. Some professionals will come to your home, some assessments will be made at playgroup or school, some will be in Childrens’ Centres or other places. Do NOT be put off by this seemingly unnecessary fuss. It may be time consuming but if it ensures your child’s happy progress through school it is worth it.

You must be told when and where all the appointments for assessing will be held. You should have every encouragement and opportunity to give your views and make your feelings known.

You have the right to obtain independent reports and produce them to be considered as part of the statutory assessment.

The LEA will request advice and reports from these professionals during the 10 weeks following the decision to assess. You will also be asked to write about your views on what your child needs. ASK LOOK FOR HELP WITH THIS. There should be no longer than 26 weeks ( 6 months) between your request for a statutory assessment and the issue of the final statement.

When all the reports are completed you will be sent a DRAFT statement? The draft statement will not name the school.

You then have 15 days to ask for a meeting to discuss amendments if you do not agree with everything in the statement.

If you do agree and are sure that the school of your choice is to be named – tell the LEA as soon as possible. The final statement will be sent to you.

If you do not agree with any part of the proposed statement you can request a meeting with LEA. It must comply with your request if made within 15 days of receiving proposed Statement.

Appeal an Assessment Decision

If you cannot resolve your differences ask the LEA to finalize the statement so that you can appeal their decision. The LEA is obliged to send you details of how to appeal

Once the Statement is final it is important to keep in close touch with the school. Understand their policies and try to help and work with them closely in helping your child. A happy partnership between school and home is essential if your child is to thrive.

Annual Review

The Statement will be reviewed once a year at an ANNUAL REVIEW meeting. Sometimes, especially in primary school, six-monthly reviews can be held.

Go to the Annual Review meeting. Make your views known in writing before the meeting. It is wise to write down your thoughts before these meetings even if you haven’t written in… and keep notes of what is discussed and especially any decisions agreed at the meeting. Hopefully, everything will be great and you have settled into a good school/family partnership.

If you are made to feel unwelcome in the school, something is wrong. Talk to the teacher or Senco.

Always be polite and considerate. Realise that teachers are human with their own lives and stresses. But they are professionals so if you feel your child is unhappy or not achieving or not properly included with his/her peers at all times put your views clearly. Try not to be emotional, try to have a good relationship with the SENCO. Ask LOOK for help if you need to.

Matching a Child with a School

Most children with special needs will attend a mainstream school, although it may not be your local school. It is important to consider your child’s social needs and his/her need to be part of the local community as well as academic results when choosing a school. Will your child be happier with local friends and going to the same school as brothers and sisters (siblings)?

Some areas have a designated school with a Resource Centre for pupils with VI and is the base for the VI service or it can be a centre for pupils with many different disabilities, with the VI teacher visiting to help staff periodically. The staff and pupils at these schools often have a better understanding and empathy with children with disabilities.

Some LEAs believe in total inclusion and there are no ‘units’ or ‘resource bases’.

Choosing a School

Some children may attend a special school. Choosing a school can be difficult, and it will be useful for you to:

  • Collect information on ALL possible schools
  • Visit the schools when the children are in school. An empty school will not tell you much. Talk to the Head teacher and, if possible, the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO)
  • Talk to your LEA
  • Talk to your child

Never assume that support will be automatic – ask what help and support will be given if your child is accepted at the school.

Wherever possible, children with special needs should attend a local mainstream school, providing that:

  • Parents’ views are considered
  • The child’s needs can be met
  • It is an efficient use of resources and there are sufficient resources to meet the child’s needs
  • The education of other children in the class will not be disrupted

Contact LOOK for further help

SAMPLE LETTERS:

TOP 3 TIPS: Always put your name and address at top of letter (left hand side)
and put the name & address of LEA boss on right hand side and date the letter.

Sample Letter #1: A sample letter asking for formal assessment of child under school age

Dear (Name of person in charge),
REF: Child’s name – Date of Birth:
REQUEST FOR FORMAL ASSESSMENT

I AM WRITING TO REQUEST A FORMAL ASSESSMENT OF (CHILD’S NAME) UNDER THE 1996 Education Act

I believe the local nursery/playgroup will not be able to include and educate him properly without extra help they cannot provide themselves.

(Child’s Name here) is visually impaired. His condition is (write his/her conditions) which means (write about your child’s main difficulties here).

His other difficulties are: (write about any other difficulties here)

Here list some of the problems your child has (help from your supportive professional (usually a member of VI team) is very helpful… otherwise ask LOOK for help).

I look forward to your reply within the six-weeks and understand that I have a right to appeal the SEN Tribunal if you refuse to assess.

Yours faithfully,

Sample Letter #2: A sample letter requesting formal assessment of child of school age:

This is similar to Sample Letter #1 but name the school that your child attends and list some of your concerns about the classroom. Also list your feelings about his social inclusion (has he/she got friends, what does he do at playtime, etc). and does the school understand his problems?

Is s/he included in PE lessons and all sporting activities. Are the lessons tailored to include him/her or is s/he allowed to opt out.

Contact LOOK for further help

Sample Letter #3: A sample letter requesting re-assessment of your child’s statement:

Dear Sir or Madam,

Re: Child’s name and D.O.B. Request for re-assessment.

I am writing on behalf of my son/daughter to request a re-assessment of his/her Special Educational Needs under the 1996 Education Act. (Name of child) has a statement and attends… (name of school).

I believe the provision listed in part 2/3/4 of the statement is no longer appropriate because:

I believe the school is no longer able to provide for his SEN because (reasons)

I understand that you will reply to this letter with six weeks and I will be able to appeal to the SEN Tribunal if you refuse my request.

I understand that you have a legal duty to comply with this request unless you can show that either:

(a) the school I want is unsuitable to my child’s age, ability, aptitude or special educational needs; or
(b) that my child’s attendance at the school would affect the education of other children; or
(c) that my child’s attendance at the school would not be an “efficient use of resources”.

I do not believe that any of these is the case and therefore look forward to hearing back that you agree to this change of school.

Also, I understand that you are required by law to reply within eight weeks of receiving this request and that if you refuse I will be able to appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal.

Yours sincerely,

Sample Letter #4:

Dear Sir or Madam,

(Child’s name) (date of birth)

Representations on proposals to amend a Statement

I am writing as the parent of the above child, who has a Statement of Special Educational Needs and attends (name of) school.

I have received your Amendment Notice and wish to request a meeting with an Officer to discuss the changes being proposed. I wish to make the following comments:

(Note: If the Amendment Notice is proposing a change to the school named in Part 4 then you can also express a preference for the maintained school you wish to be named on the Statement.)

I understand that I will be able to appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal if you amend the Statement and I remain unhappy, and I hope that by meeting to discuss this matter we will be able to avoid involving the Tribunal.

Yours sincerely,

NOTE: Once the statement is produced – it is not cast in stone – and periodically a re-assessment of your child’s needs should be made.

RE-ASSESSMENTS FAQs

When should I ask for re-assessment?

  • Ask if you believe that your child’s needs have changed since the last Statement was issued
  • Ask at the annual review meeting
  • Ask if you believe that a different kind of help or more help is needed
  • Ask if you believe that your child should attend a different kind of school.

Should I speak to the school and the LEA first ?

Yes, definitely. Speak to your child’s class teacher and the head teacher about your worries. When you write to the LEA asking for a re-assessment, explain why you think the current Statement is not good enough.

Remember: Keep a copy of any letter you send and make a note of the deadline for reply on your calendar.

Contact LOOK for further help if you don’t get a reply after six weeks or if you want further advice.

When should I ask for a meeting ?

Within 15 days of receiving your copy of the proposed Statement.

Who should I write to?

Write to the top person at the LEA, usually called the Chief Education Officer or the Director of Education. You can find out what the top person is called in your LEA by asking at the school or the local library.

When will I hear back?

You should hear back within a week or two.

Remember: keep a copy of any letter you send and contact LOOK if you don’t get a reply after two weeks or if you want further advice.

When can I ask for a re-assessment?

At any time, as long as it is not within one year of:

  • the last time you asked
  • the Statement being finalised
  • the Statement being amended
  • your last appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal

Who should I write to ?

Write to the top person at the LEA, usually called the Chief Education Officer or the Director of Education. You can find out what the top person is called in your LEA by asking at the school or the local library.

When will I hear back ?

Within eight weeks

Will the LEA agree ?

The LEA should agree, provided that:

  • the school you want is suitable to your child’s age, ability, aptitude or to his special educational needs or
  • your child’s attendance at the school would not affect the education of other children or
  • your child’s attendance at the school would be an “efficient use of resources.”

Important: It is important to check that the provision described in Part 3 of your child’s Statement can be made at the new school and that there will therefore be no need to change the wording of Part 3 of the Statement. If you are unsure of this, ask the head teacher of the school you want your child to attend and contact LOOK for further advice.

Remember: keep a copy of any letter you send and make a note of the deadline for reply. Contact LOOK for further help if you don’t get a reply after eight weeks or if you want further advice.

Top | Home      
Below are the pages available to read on our website:
Welcome / LOOK People / Blog / Membership / Vacancies / What we do / LOOK Helpline / Events / LOOK Magazine / OutLOOK Youth Project / OutLOOK Audio Magazine / Friends / Fund Raising / Run for LOOK / Donations / Legacy Gifts / Holiday Flat / Contact / Feedback / OutLOOK Connect / Links / Parent Groups / Youth Groups / Education / Accessibility / Accessibility Options / Change Viewing Styles / Browser Help